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Project of the Day: ‘SEMBENE!’ is Headed to Sundance

Project of the Day: 'SEMBENE!' is Headed to Sundance

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Tweetable Longline: Ousmane Sembene: The African freedom fighter who used stories as his weapon

Elevator Pitch: In 1952, an uneducated Senegalese dockworker began dreaming an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. “SEMBENE!” tells the unbelievable true story of the “father of African cinema,” who fought a monumental, 50-year-long battle to give African stories to Africans. Told through the experiences of his friend and biographer Samba Gadjigo, “SEMBENE!” draws from rare archival footage and 100 hours of exclusive materials, following an ordinary man who transforms himself into a fearless spokesperson for the marginalized and a hero to millions. After a startling fall from grace, can Ousmane Sembene reinvent himself once more?

Production Team:

• Samba Gadjigo (co-writer, co-director, co-producer), the director of the documentary Making of Moolaade, is the world’s foremost expert on the life and work of Ousmane Sembene and author of Sembene’s official biography. He was born and raised in Senegal and is professor of African Studies and French at Mt. Holyoke College.

• Jason Silverman (co-writer, co-director, co-producer) is an award-winning film producer (Olympia, Opening Night film, SXSW; Closing Night film, Slamdance; Sundance Channel; Shameless, Best Film, Great Plains Film Festival) and longtime festival director. He has produced large-scale events for the Smithsonian, the Lensic Center for the Arts, the Tribeca Film Festival and the Lannan Foundation. He is currently Cinematheque Director at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, and former Artistic Director of the Taos Talking Picture Festival.

• Ricardo Acosta (editor) immigrated to Canada from his native Cuba in 1993 and has edited both documentary and dramatic films that have been shown around the world. His latest film Herman’s House is directed by Angad Bhalla and received a 2014 Emmy Award for Best Cultural Programming. Marmato was screened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Other films include: Shooting Indians, A Journey With Jeffrey Thomas (1997); Unbound (1996); Spirits of Havana (2001); The Take (2004); Runaway Groom (2005); Tiger Spirit (2009); and El Juicio de Pascual Pichun (2007). 

• Robb Moss (story consultant) directed the films Secrecy (2008, with Peter Galison) and The Same River Twice (2003), which screened in more than 50 film festivals and 100 theatrical venues around the world, was nominated for a 2004 Independent Spirit Award, won awards in Nashville, Chicago, New England, and Alabama, and was selected by Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader as the best documentary and cinematography of 2003. His films have shown at Telluride, the Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center, IDFA, Rio, Jerusalem, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Sidney, Thessaloniki, Zagreb, and Sweden. He has taught filmmaking at Harvard for more than 20 years.

• Joe Bini (story consultant) has edited 15 films for Werner Herzog, including the Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World, the acclaimed Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams and the forthcoming Queen of the Desert. His credits also include Manhunt, Tales of the Grim Sleeper and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

• Boubacar Boris Diop (writer/creative consultant) is one of West Africa’s leading writers of fiction and journalism, weaving together history, myth and genre experimentation. A former technical advisor for the Ministry of Culture of Senegal, he serves as a professor of literature and philosophy. Diop also is the author of three theatre plays and numerous produced screenplays. His novels include Murambi, The Book of Bones and Doomi golo. 

• Impact Film Partners (executive producers) finances independent cinema that addresses pressing social issues, bringing together financiers and filmmakers to create great films that entertain and enrich audiences and ignite social change. Impact’s filmography includes the Oscar-winning The Cove and Freeheld and Oscar nominee The Garden, along with Secrets of the Tribe, Family Affair, To Catch a Dollar and No Impact Man.

About the Film: From Samba: “In my African village, there was no TV and no newspapers. My stories came from my grandmother. But when I was sent away to attend French school, my European-style education alienated me from who I really was. Then, I discovered my first African book, by the writer-filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, in which black characters and were as smart, resourceful, brave, loving and powerful as the whites. Suddenly, I was proud to being African. I decided to share Africa with others, just as Sembene had done. Nearly 40 years later, I am bringing Sembene’s amazing story to the world.”

Current Status: Late post-production, heading for SUNDANCE!!!

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